Coffee Bean Flavor Starts With Climate and Growing Region

There are many factors that influence the flavor of coffee beans.  Ultimately the nuances we coffee geeks (aka coffee professionals) look for start with the soil the trees are grown in.  There are other factors that come into play such as climate, soil, rain, sun, harvesting, processing, storage and roasting that all play a role in why coffee tastes the way it does.  And we are not talking about flavors like vanilla-hazelnut or chocolate cream pie surprise; those types of ‘flavors’ are additives added after roasting (actually the beans are soaked in a flavor concentrate and absorb the flavor…ewww!)  Nothing natural about that!  However in this discussion, we will focus on the coffee origin that starts with climate and region.  After all, that is where it all starts.

There are several countries that produce Arabica coffee beans.  Obviously they cannot be grown in every country or they would be.  Coffee beans need to have the right climate and altitude in order to survive.  Each country must be located in a geographical zone capable of sustaining a coffee tree.  The optimal climate has to fall into one of two categories:  subtropical or equatorial.

The subtropical region boasts an altitude of 1800-3600 ft.  This would include parts of Brazil like the Sao Paulo state as well as Zimbabwe in Africa and Mexico.  The climate conditions allow for one growing season and one maturation season because of the equal rainy and dry seasons.

The equatorial regions with an altitude of 3600-6300 ft would be those found in say Ethiopia, Kenya and Colombia.  These regions haven’t any dry season so all drying of processed coffee beans has to be done by mechanical means not by mother nature.  She is not so dependable when you need 4 wks to dry coffee outside on a patio and the rain is not letting up.  The upside is that frequent rainfall allows for two harvesting seasons.

When you actually break down the origin by continent, you would have a list as follows:

North America and the Caribbean – Hawaii is known mainly for Kona coffee which gets its much sought after characteristics from the rich volcanic soil.  The Mexican states of Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas boast a cup of coffee with a wonderful aroma and a depth of flavor, often with a pronounced sharpness.  Puerto Rican coffee is known for its balanced body, acidity and fruity aroma.

Central America – Guatemalan coffee beans are medium-to-full bodied coffees that usually have a depth and complexity of taste that is almost spicy, nutty or chocolaty.  Costa Rica is known for coffee that is a perfect balance and full bodied.  Panama coffees are anywhere from intensely acidy to delicately and brightly floral.

South America – Colombian coffees are generally mild, with a well-balanced acidity and overall sweetness while Brazil, still sweet to taste tends to offer a more low-acid, medium bodied coffee.

Africa and the Middle East – Ethiopia has three main growing regions for coffee beans which are Sidamo, Harer and Kaffa.   When tasted, Ethiopian coffee tends to be full flavored, a tad ‘earthy’, taste of berries, winey in character and full bodied.  Kenya coffee is sharp with a fruity acidity.  Kenyan also offers a full body and rich fragrance.

Arabia – Yemen is a deep and rich flavored coffee.  Fun fact – Mocha Java was an accidental blend of Arabian coffee and beans from the island of Java.

Asia – Indonesia is known for the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi (Celebes) that produce a rich, full body and mildly acidic coffee.  Vietnam produces mainly Robusta coffee.  Vietnamese coffee has a light acidity and mild body with a good balance. It is usually used for blending, especially in espresso blends.

When we roasters blend coffee beans to come up with something original, we usually start with a flavor profile that we want to accomplish and work backwards.  That is why having a working knowledge of all types of coffees is a good prerequisite for blending.  Of course you will have your ‘purists’ that say if a Guatemalan Estate coffee cups at a score of 90, why not let it stand on its own?  They don’t agree with blending and say it’s a way to cover up defects in the cup.  Well true it does that, however I do not believe that anyone would intentionally do that.  This profession has so much passion that I believe anyone in it is in it 100%.  By that, I feel that we are all striving for our absolute best so we go out of our way to ensure the product meets or exceeds every expectation.  I believe that blending gives a certain creativity to a roaster that would only be available in a particular roasting profile.

Having said that I happen to favor the single origin coffees more than the blends.  It’s a quest each season to get as many bags of the best estate and single farm green coffee beans that we can.  It is as much a goal to have a unique and sought after single origin as it is to have a unique and sought after original (and secret!) blend.

So, the next time you buy a bag of whole bean coffee or take a sip of the black brew, try to pick out the obvious flavor characteristics we talked about here.  You’ll be surprised at how much coffee geek stuff you may just know now!



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Coffee Makers for Coffee Aficionados

Coffee makers have made it possible for coffee lovers to sip a cup of piping hot coffee with the same rich quality and flavor offered by professional cafes, any time, from the comforts of their home. Portable coffee machines grant you the same enjoyment while on the go. Many precious happy moments can be spent with family and friends sharing a pot of delectable steaming coffee made by your personal coffee maker. Whipped cream, ice or vanilla essence is often added to coffee to make other beverages like iced coffee and frosty blends.

Coffee maker prices range from $20-$265 depending on their features, capacity and brand. However, investment in even a costly high-tech coffee maker is a prudent decision in the scenario of global food inflation and coffee price hikes by cafes.

Coffee machines are designed for exacting an excellent brewing performance; they proffer rich coffee flavors by ensuring the water is heated to the right temperature. When buying a coffee maker, prefer one with a convenient detachable reservoir that can be filled at the kitchen sink to avoid spillage. Look for coffee makers with a removable drip tray or anti-drip technology to reduce mess. 1-cup pod coffee machines or 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12-cup capacity coffee machines can be purchased depending on user needs.

User-friendly drip coffee machines drip coffee into a glass carafe; those with a conical coffee filter and charcoal water filter extract maximum coffee ground flavor. Thermal coffee machines teemed with thermal carafes instead of glass carafes will help keep your coffee steaming hot for almost 24 hours. Coffee machines without carafes often have a cup warmer tray.

Some high-tech coffee machines offer voice command recognition; some allow you to select coffee strength. Pre programmable coffee machines let you set the start time almost 24 hours in advance so that you can wake up in the morning to a delicious cup of coffee, drink away your morning blues and be energized for your day.

A single high end Espresso coffee machine can make you many coffee styles such as frothy Espresso and more concentrated Cappuccino and Lattes. Steam driven and manual espresso maker models are inexpensive, but passé; semi automatic machines give you control over the quality of coffee made.

Automatic electronic Espresso coffee makers can be programmed to stop the brew cycle short for Ristretto style coffee or engage in a longer brew cycle for Lungo style coffee. Super automatic Espresso machines have an integrated grinder so you get yummy espresso made from freshly grounded coffee when you add whole beans in the machine and turn it on. The French press coffee machine provides coffee connoisseurs the ideal cup of gourmet coffee with full coffee oils essence.

Filter coffee machines with high speed minute brewing abilities are available. Electronic or manual percolators are cheap and suitable for large families as they can make almost 12 cups of aromatic coffee at a time. Versatile hot drink machines produce spiced or flavored coffees and cocoa besides various coffee styles.

The best coffee makers come from Bunn, Black and Decker, Kalorik, Saeco, Hamilton Beach, Summit Ultra, Cuisinart Crew Central and Philips.

Clean the coffee machine every fortnight with boiling water and vinegar in 1:2 ratios to remove mineral deposits, stray coffee grounds and coffee oil remains. This helps maintain correct brewing pressure and ensures that your drink is fresh, full bodied and flavorful. No matter what coffeemaker you buy, the quality of your brew is only as good as the quality of your coffee grounds or beans. Use fresh coffee beans or grounds stored in airtight containers for best results from coffee makers.



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Traditional Sumatran Coffee – Simply Irresistible

Normally grown inland from the southern coast, the Sumatran Coffee production actually began in the 18th century and majority of it is labeled Mandheling or Lintong which basically means the place where it was initially planted and grown. They are different from coffees of Java as they are planted and grown by small landholders or coffee farmers who may only have a few trees on their property and they are normally dry-processed with just semi-washed. The ripe coffee cherries are crushed by hand and spread in the sun to dry for an extended period of time rather than being rinsed in water during the night after they have been harvested. To date, coffees of Sumatra are grown at different places in Sumatra as well other than just Mandheling and Lintong districts.

These coffees have low and subtle acidity due to how they are processed. Their bodies are full and buttery, with sweet and pungent almost syrupy and somewhat earthy taste that just lingers on one’s tongue. These intensely aromatic and typically smooth-bodied coffees of Sumatra are characterized by their steady flavor and full, sweet-scented aroma. The flavor is normally very concentrated, and each distinctive blend is roasted to perfection to add richness to every cup of one’s Sumatran Coffee.

A lot of researches have been done to understand how they are planted and grown, how they are harvested and processed in order to make better conclusion on the coffee’s unique characteristics that actually made it possible to be one of the oldest coffee beans in the world. They have always been highly prized not only because of their unique characteristics, but also of their distinct appearances. One of the finest coffees with its own class, coffees of Sumatra is perfect for dessert which goes well with any other desserts like cheesecakes or even quiches. Definitely a must-have!



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